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The Reef-Face Team


Setting up a marine aquarium

Setting Up A Marine Aquarium


Guys I thought I would write this thread as a start point, please feel free to add and comment. If there is anything you think I may have missed please let me know.


This hobby grabs you and pulls you in so quickly before you know it its upgrade time. Fun , exciting , heartaches and pleasure – bit like a relationship.

So lets start with the basic equipment and substrates needed.

  1. Aquarium

  2. Return Pump (if Sumped)

  3. External filter (if not sumped)

  4. Heaters (I always say 2 but we will come back to that)

  5. Flow pumps (water movement within the display tank)

  6. Skimmer (I always say skim from the start)

  7. Crushed coral sand (live if wanted but again Ill come to that or none if bare bottom)

  8. Rock (synthetic, live , dead reef bones etc)


Set the tank up where you want it (as its hard work to move after filling) Ensure it is level both ways.

Little tip here guys try to make sure the tank is not in direct sunlight as this can cause over heating and nuisance algae.

Water test the tank by filling with tap water and monitor for leaks. Once you decide it is water tight add your sand and rockwork (most people build up their scape then alter take it down re build alter – so on and so on.

Fill with RO water until at desired level – If you have a sump leave all pumps off until the water is at running level in both display and sump.

At this point I turn on my pumps and heaters then start adding the salt until I reach slightly below my required salinity (35) Then let the system heat up to 25 degrees and adjust salinity by adding little more salt or exchange tank water for plain RO (you want to keep it low at first  so as not to waste salt)

Once at temperature turn on the skimmer and start your test regime , at this point I would advise to test only for

  1. Nitrate

  2. Nitrite

  3. Ammonia

After initial cycle – Nitrate to nitrite to ammonia to Nitrate – Zero nitrite and ammonia start to stabilise your P04 and N03. Your skimmer will have collected some real gunk from die off from the rock and sand. This is normal. Also you will get red/brown spots and or a thin carpet on the sand this is called dinoflagellates again part of the cycle and perfectly normal. This will die off as the tank matures.

Life can be added to the system by chemical induction ( I do not know enough about this to advise or by my preferred method a cup of sand from a fellow reefers system).

During the cycle you must keep your water level constant by replacing the evaporation with plain RO water, most hobbyist use an ATO (Auto top off) which is a float valve or IR sensor connected to a pump in a container of RO water)

Lights are not required for the cycle period.

Once you are satisfied the water is fully cycled then you can add a few fish at a time ensuring the N03 is kept stable and low. Same with corals but stick with the easy to keep softies for a while.

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20 hours ago, DJ23bol said:

Good write up dave

Sent from my SM-G955F using Tapatalk

Thanks David

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